Friday, Aug 23, 2002
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By M.C. Raman
A jubilant India Seniors team poses with the Sivanthi Gold Cup (In skipper Ravikanth Reddy's hands) after triumphing in the international volleyball tournament in Hyderabad on Thursday - Photo: Mohd.Yousuf
The near-full stadium saw India Seniors crush Thailand at 25-21, 25-16, 25-16 in about an hour and the team celebrated it with the news that its main spiker and all-rounder Amir Singh, who has played in three Asian senior championships at Doha (1997), Teheran (1999) and Pusan (2001) had got the Arjuna award.
India Juniors, after a smooth start, messed up its game to lose to a fighting Myanmar at 25-16, 25-20, 22-25, 18-25, 15-17 in the most exciting and well-fought out encounter of the championship.
Myanmar, an underrated side, finished runner-up by winning three matches and collected Rs. 1 lakh. India Juniors got Rs. 50,000 for coming third, while Thailand secured fourth place and Kazakhstan fifth.
The field had not looked so strong in the beginning. But Myanmar gave a fresh life to this event with a fantastic fight back that exposed India Juniors' weaknesses before the latter leaves for the Asian junior championship at Teheran.
Overall, India Seniors' show was not so bad as it lost only one set to Kazakhstan. "I am satisfied with the team's performance. But our service receiving and defence has to improve. The boys are still vulnerable to strong jump serve,'' said the Seniors coach Shyamsundar Rao.
Thailand made an exciting start and disturbed Seniors' first pass. Sriphum Supachai, Thailand's main attacker, Wanchai, setter Nimawan and Songserm rattled the home team with their jump serve in the beginning.
Supachai's serve was the strongest and soon the Seniors were trailing by four points. But libero Arun Jakhmola steadied himself and began to give neat first passes. The Indian outfit's first pass became neat and quick after that.
That helped setter Ravikanth Reddy to bring in Tom Joseph more into the attack. Joby Joseph was right on target and Amir Singh also found his touch. Ravikanth switched to more second line attack, using centre-blockers Subba Rao and Rajesh.
That saw the Seniors broke away to a five-point lead (20-15). After that the team did not look back and moved on like a juggernaut. Barring some thundering smashes and serves by the Thais, particularly by Supachai, there was no real challenge from the visitors.
It was a different story as far as the Juniors were concerned. The team made a smooth start and wrapped up the first two sets comfortably.
Sivabalan, Nadarajan and Mukesh Kumar were the main spikers and they did their job neatly. Libero Sandeep's first pass was neat and setter Kasi kept the attack going. It looked like a three-set win for the Juniors when it led 13-12 in the third set.
At this stage, the Myanmar coach sent in Kyaw Shwe for the erratic Tin Win Aung. Shwe, who was a bit wayward in attack in the beginning, became a big headache as the match wore on.
Shwe's success made him frontline attacker and he collected about 15 points in the third and fourth sets with his thundering down the line smashes. The Junior blockers failed to seal that side and Myanmar's best and brilliant spiker Ye Min Aung also found his touch at the right time.
They both turned the match around in Myanmar's favour. Under pressure, the Juniors' first pass became wayward, its defence was rudderless and the attack became ineffective.
Mukesh was tiring and lost his power, while Sivabalan found the going tough. That left Nadarajan to do the spiking job but Myanmar's net defence had also improved tremendously.
Still the Juniors had a match point at 14-13, but bungled. At 15-15 setter Kasi attempted a jump serve and failed. And Myanmar, which hardly has any international exposure, had done pretty well. It was a fantastic fightback by Myanmar.
Myanmar, which had played only three `Test' matches against the Chinese team this year and had paid a visit to Sikim, Thailand and Malayasia in the last two years, has never had big international exposure. Still it showed the real fighting spirit and took its game to fantastic heights, proving once again that height is not everything in volleyball.
It was more athletic and sharp in finish. And that counts at this level of competition.
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